(February 13, 2020) This past December, Congress authorized a 25% ($21 million) increase for the Bureau of Land Management’s badly broken Wild Horse and Burro program. Now the Administration is asking Congress to approve an additional 15% ($15.3 million) budget increase for the program two months later, as the BLM prepares to massively accelerate the roundup and removal of tens of thousands of wild horses.
What’s At Stake
As many of you know, the Acting Director of the BLM referred to wild horses and burros as an “existential threat” to public lands and is planning to use the Bureau’s funds to round up wild horses and burros in unprecedented numbers, with as many as 20,000 at risk of being removed this year alone.
We cannot stress this enough: We are talking about the greatest threat to wild horses in decades.
It is critical to remember that the BLM is not considering reducing the number of privately owned livestock in these areas. This despite the fact that these animals vastly outnumber horses and burros on public land and cost taxpayers as much as $500 million in subsidies for the below market grazing fees that public lands ranchers pay.
For reference, there are anywhere from 700,000 to 1,000,000 cow/calf pairs on public lands compared to the 88,000 federally-protected wild horses and burros (who share this land with the livestock).
Make no mistake about it, this isn’t a coincidence either -- It’s the result of intense lobbying on behalf of the livestock industry.
Bad Policy And A Broken Program
The BLM continues to impose extreme limits on wild horse population numbers on public lands throughout the West that have no basis in science and their method of calculating these limits is not transparent to the public nor wildlife researchers and experts.
Additionally, the BLM is also championing the use of inhumane and ineffective population growth suppression methods that focus on the castration of wild stallions and the risky, cruel, and invasive surgical practice known as ovariectomy, whereby a mare’s ovaries are manually severed and removed in an invasive and outdated surgical procedure.
The National Academy of Sciences warned against BLM’s use of ovarectomies on wild mares due to risk of hemorrhage and infection. Castrating stallions would cause loss of testosterone which drives the natural behaviors necessary to maintain social organization and survive in the wild.
BLM is not only charging ahead with surgical sterilization, but the budget indicates that the agency intends to use the appropriations process to amend the Wild Horse and Burro Act to explicitly authorize these surgeries.
It’s also critically important to remember that the vast majority of Americans, of all political backgrounds, are opposed to mass roundups and these surgical procedures.
Another Way to Dump Horses?
While the President’s budget does recognize that the slaughter of America’s wild horses and burros is unacceptable to Congress and the public, we have grave concerns about the request for legislative language to expand the transfer authority of wild horses and burros to tribal entities.
AWHC sees this as another way for the agency to take steps to reduce numbers of wild horses through policies that make it easier to move horses out of holding, strip them of their federal-protection and send them to destinations where their welfare will be impossible to ensure.
A Better Way
Here at AWHC, we’re proving that there is a humane and cost-effective way to keep wild horses and burros on public lands and end the roundup and warehousing of these wild animals in holding pens.
On the Virginia Range in Nevada, our team is operating the world’s largest humane management program of wild horses and burros
By utilizing a very affordable vaccine, known as PZP, our team has treated more mares in 10 months than the BLM did last year. And each vaccine costs as little as $30 per year.
The President’s budget request is just that: a request. This means we have the chance to work with leaders in Congress to oversee the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program, demand the BLM abandon the practices that are not supported by science or the American public, as well as promote effective and safe alternatives that our team has demonstrated work.
Over the last three years, working together, we’ve beat back multiple attempts to legalize the slaughter of wild horses and burros by convincing Congress that the American people will not stand for this lethal and brutally inhumane option. Together, we can meet this newest and most serious threat to the future of America’s wild herds.